Rules of Engagement

Hi Todd, I was relatively OK reading your rebuttal to Jillian C. York until I got to your passive-aggressive threat to withdraw. It’s ironic, a little, but also surfaces the problematic of whiteness in a clear example. Given that you have been engaging with me, I going to practice trying to balance ‘calling out’ with ‘calling in.’

Jillian actually does what you have suggested! She argues with you. Rather than embracing her engagement, your reaction is defensive, reiterating the parameters you are attached to rather than allowing the field to open up. I suspect that your aim was to be clarifying, but — instead of affirming argumentation as a path forward — your reaction redefines Jillian’s contribution as somehow ‘wrong.’

This probably wasn’t conscious. One of the subtler aspects of whiteness is how we get entrained to presume things will ‘go our way,’ more-or-less in the direction we intended. Again — not necessarily on purpose! It’s like we assume others will fall in line according to a pre-conceived trajectory.

In service of this tactic, you compare Jillian’s and my responses to you, in a way presenting my response to you as more desirable. This is also a very subtle movement of whiteness. My response was suggestive of support but mainly only descriptive. By deploying me on your side you are restricting the rules of engagement: the message is — talk/write like ‘this’ is proper but talk/writing like ‘that’ means I might pack up my toys and go home. That’s a power move!

An alternative might have been to explore the trees that Jillian sees.

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